There is a river of blood that links the harrowing events of recent days in Canada.
The discovery of the remains of 215 children who were taken from their mothers’ arms, who had their hair shorn and their culture denied, who never came home. The sentencing of Brayden Bushby, the Thunder Bay man who killed Barbara Kentner, an Indigenous woman, by throwing a trailer hitch at her from a moving vehicle. An intergenerational Pakistani-Canadian family, intentionally mowed down during an evening walk, targeted because of their Muslim faith.
The last horror, out of London, Ont. — four family members dead, a young boy in the hospital now orphaned — prompted many Canadians to say, "This is not our Canada."
Except, of course, this very much is our Canada.
Genocide via the residential school system is our Canada. Indigenous children hidden in unmarked graves is our Canada. Mosque shootings are our Canada. Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are our Canada. Xenophobia is our Canada. White supremacy is our Canada.
That may be uncomfortable to hear — but surely it’s much more painful to experience. The burdens that are being carried this week by Muslim and Indigenous people are crushingly heavy, and they are not made lighter by some Canadians insisting this country isn’t racist, that this country is safe, when there is so much evidence to the contrary.
In 2017, six people were shot to death in a Quebec City mosque. That same year, Statistics Canada released data showing that police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims had more than tripled between 2012 and 2015. Anti-Muslim sentiments are normalized through the establishment of legislation such as Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols, including the hijab and niqab, or the ill-considered 2015 federal Conservative government pledge to create a "barbaric cultural practices" tipline.
It’s been four years since a gunman opened fire at a mosque after evening prayers, and now another young man has committed mass murder in the name of hate. What’s it going to take for Canada to acknowledge that Islamophobia exists here? It’s been almost 20 years since 9/11, which means there is an entire generation of kids, now entering adulthood, who have grown up facing anti-Muslim racism and violence. When are we going to listen to their stories?
More needs to be done. Condemning the actions of the 20-year-old man who ran down the London, Ont., family — and saying, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders did, that this type of hatred "has no place in Canada" — is the easy part. Confronting and dismantling the infrastructure that allows this type of hatred to fester is the hard work that necessarily follows. How do our governments, our media, or any of our other institutions enable Islamophobia? How are stereotypes and biases reflected in our schools and workplaces?
This truth pierces the heart of the stereotypical Canadian identity — that we’re nice, polite, maple syrup-swilling, universal health care-championing denizens of the world’s greatest melting pot. But we cannot be the Canada we want to be, the Canada we think we are, until we acknowledge — until we own — the fact these things not only happen here, but that they are woven into the fabric of this country. That these things are every bit a part of Canada as are maple syrup and the good old hockey game.